Resident: Dr. AJ Rustia
Year: PGY 1
1) What residency program are you at, and what year are you?
Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood, Florida. PGY 1
2) What are your thoughts on completing a fellowship versus going straight into practice after residency graduation?
Fellowship is a way to perfect your skills in what you see yourself specializing in. It is a great way to gain more exposure to the pathologies you have not seen or have not seen enough in residency. More exposure going into that “4th year” can lead to more solutions to difficult situations. Going straight to practice can also be a viable option if you are confident enough that you have had adequate surgical and clinical exposure in your residency to tackle anything that will come through your office or ER. I am an advocate for pursuing a fellowship because as physicians, we should always be learning. We should have the motivation to perfect our craft to be the best surgeons and clinicians we can be.
3) What is the best part of residency, in your opinion?
Definitely the podiatry and orthopedic relationship in our program. Only one resident is able to scrub into our orthopedic cases which allows for 1 on 1 interaction. This allows us to pick the brains of the best surgeons in the U.S. We are heavily involved in all of our procedures and are required to know everything going on.
We also have a designated children’s hospital, the Joe Dimaggio Children’s Hospital. This is where most of our pediatric traumas and pathologies take place. In a U.S News and World report ranking of specialties, orthopedics at Joe Dimaggio’s Children’s Hospital were ranked as one of the top specialties in the nation for 2019-2020. This was also the highest-rated in Florida.
4) What is your surgical case volume and type in a typical week at your program?
Our surgical case volume is heavy during a regular week.
We travel to four hospitals and two surgical centers regularly. Our cases involve many inpatient surgeries and elective cases alternating between podiatry and orthopedics involving the foot and ankle. As a Trauma 1 center, Memorial Regional Hospital provides many of our trauma cases. Students who have the opportunity to visit Memorial can see how involved we are in our surgeries from case start to end. No one is standing in the background taking up space.
5) If you had to pick again, would you pick podiatry and your program?
100%. I am blessed to have the opportunity to learn from the best physicians in the world.
6) What advice do you have for a (4th year) podiatry student?
Listening and learning is something that can make you standout.
Be a sponge. Listen to everything you are hearing from residents and attendings and take it in. You don’t have to know everything and that is not what we expect. Listening and learning is something that can make you standout. However, don’t take everything to heart. Take it in, but don’t take it to heart. There are things such as constructive criticism, which is sometimes given especially from the older attendings. Take it as a learning tool and move on.
7) What is your favorite surgery?
Trauma and pediatric deformities
8) What has been your favorite outside rotation?
Internal Medicine. Realizing that the hospital heavily relies on them and the responsibilities that it entails.
9) What do you see for your future practice setting/case type? Has this changed since you were a student?
I see my future practice setting involving anything and everything ranging from the diabetic foot to the professional athlete.
Yes, it has changed. As a student, I wanted to only deal with sports medicine and be a physician for a college/professional sports team. However, that mindset has slowly changed over time. People from the rich to the poor deserve the best care from someone who will treat them like family.
10) Finally, everyone is constantly learning, and new information is more available now than ever before. When you’re finding that things you’ve done or learned in the past are not correct, how do you respond to this?
This goes back to questions #6. Take it as a learning tool and move on. Like technology, things are always changing. If I’ve done or learned something that is incorrect, I make a mental note and do it correctly next time. Ask the person who corrected you why things are done this way in a polite manner and determine the pros and cons. As the saying goes, “It takes 21 days to create a habit”. Changing something you have learned over your career isn’t going to happen overnight. Keep at it.
Interview by Elizabeth Ansert
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